Patients recovering from tuberculosis, one of the most infectious diseases in the world, could now be better monitored by doctors thanks to a mini-sensor that checks that they are taking their medication properly.
In a clinical trial carried out in the United States, a team of researchers proved the effectiveness of ingestible mini-sensors that allow doctors to electronically monitor whether their patients are taking their tuberculosis medicine as they should, reported a study published on Friday 11th October in the journal PLOS Medicine.
Tuberculosis is the most deadly infectious disease on the planet. Treatments exist but must be taken over the long term and require patients to take a cocktail of pills every day. If they do not take their medication correctly, they risk developing a resistant strain of the disease.
A mini-sensor for patients to swallow
Researchers have developed a kind of pill that contains a minuscule sensor measuring 1 millimetre cubed, made from common metals and coated with minerals. Once in the stomach, the sensor detaches itself, charges up and communicates with a patch stuck to the skin. The patch then confirms whether the medicine has been taken properly. Doctors can check up on their patients using a mobile app.
Of the 77 participants in the trial carried out in California, 93% of patients who swallowed the sensors stuck to their daily treatment regime, compared with 63% who were monitored in the usual way. These results confirm how useful this tool could prove, though the trial was only carried out on a very small scale.
A technology that could save millions of lives
“If we are serious about eliminating TB then we have to get some fundamental things right such as increased support for patient care that efficiently helps patients complete all of their treatment,” said Sara Browne, professor of clinical medicine at the University of California San Diego, who led the trial.
The technology, called Wirelessly Observed Therapy or WOT, “could potentially be a lifesaver for millions,” suggested Mark Cotton, professor of paediatrics at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University.
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